DFTG Reviews Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode One
This week, fans had a chance to dip their toes back into the Bay with Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode One. For many, the narrative driven episodic game would be hard to top and while the excitement was at its peak by release, many fans felt a slight apprehension under the circumstances. After all, the game was in the hands of Deck Nine instead of Dontnod, and a new voice actor was at the helm for main character Chloe Price. A lot could have gone wrong, but many took the dive anyway.
For those who have never played the first game, or maybe weren’t aware of the prequel, here’s a quick breakdown: Life is Strange follows an artist, Max Caulfield, as she returns to her home of Arcadia Bay to begin classes at the prestigious Blackwell Academy. While there, she discovers she has the ability to rewind time, essentially giving the character the ability to alter the course of events in a way that would make outcomes favorable. Reunited with her once best friend Chloe Price, the two delve into a dark series of events playing out under the surface as things in Arcadia Bay get, well, strange.
The Prequel takes place before all of this. Centered on Chloe Price and her relationship with the mysterious Rachel Amber, a character who comes up frequently in the first game as Chloe’s missing friend. Both games are episodic, decision-based, and narrative driven with an aesthetic that gives the player a sense of nostalgia while at the same time offering a place that feels comfortable, simple, and true to life.
That having been said, whether you’re new to the franchise or a long time fan, there is a certain appeal to the game’s character development. With its exploration into the things we experience in life that games don’t necessarily address and the complications of forming relationships, the game felt a lot like a slice of life; maybe even a slice right out of the player’s life. That is what made Life is Strange so special, and moving. Players weren’t just going through the motions, they could relate and this set a bar for the Prequel that meant Deck Nine had big shoes to fill.
Pressing play for the first time on Before the Storm Episode One, as a passionate fan of the franchise, was altogether exciting and worrisome. There was a chance that even though trailers and gameplay had been seen, that this was going to be bad. There was a chance that money had been wasted and fandom tarnished. It took all of about three seconds to be proven wrong.
The title screen and opening music brought the familiarity of the first game, the aesthetic was certainly there but was different in ways that gave the immediate impression that we were not in Max’s shoes. The differences made sense. After all, players aren’t looking through the somewhat romanticised and filtered lens of Max Caulfield. Now they were seeing Arcadia Bay through the very raw, realist eyes of Chloe Price. This was reflected throughout the games situations, dialogue, and visual appeal.
The worries really began to melt away as the character became playable. The controls felt familiar and simple. It was easy to get caught up in the moment, although there was still hesitance. All of this had been seen before, or so it seemed, in the gameplay trailers. As far as was known, this was already shown and it wasn’t yet enough to be convincing.
It was a pleasant surprise to see that Deck Nine didn’t show their hand when they released gameplay. Parts of the narrative were the same, but things happened that were unexpected and mechanics emerged that fit the character well. Instead of time travel Chloe can word battle her way through situations by paying attention to dialogue and using tells to create argumentative conversations that felt like Chloe.
At first, admittedly, the new mechanic seemed a bit contrived (yes, the irony of saying that about a video game is not missed), but as the story progressed it became something that expressed Chloe’s thoughts in a way that also gave players a choice in how that happened. The ability to direct that dialogue to convey what the character was feeling made for a more engrossing experience.
The urge to play Chloe the bad ass in the opening play sequence was too hard to resist and while it seemed to pay off, the consequences of those actions may yet bear undesirable fruit. This urge was quickly squashed in the next sequence where players were treated to the games hallmark moment in time where one could just get lost in the setting and the music. The aesthetic of Life is Strange is alive and well in Before the Storm Episode One and Deck Nine easily captured the feel of the game without making it feel like a cheap copy. This was Chloe’s world now, and it felt familiar and angsty and new all at once.
This part of the game really marked a turning point. For those who had played the first game, there were plenty of references and one big emotional surprise that immediately revealed a deeper layer to Chloe and what she is experiencing. In the span of a few minutes Deck Nine had given players a candid look behind the curtain of Chloe Price. Where it could be seen that past the hard exterior and rebellious attitude was a person, raw, and suffering, but somehow still holding on. From there the choices became a bit harder, and it was apparent that deciding whether or not to remain gruff and aggressive was going to affect the story and relationships Chloe has in real ways.
Before the Storm Episode One dives deep into relationships and rewards players willing to go the extra mile and explore the world around them. What the developer achieves between Chloe and Rachel throughout the rest of the game explores the dynamics of new friendships in a way that few games have even scratched the surface of. In the end, it is revealed that sometimes being vulnerable is the scariest thing we can face, and what we think of people can often be obscured by their own defenses.
Chloe Price is certainly a fine example of that, and it was something that wasn’t considered much in the first game. What really stood out in Episode One was how complex people can be, and how hard it can really be to make a meaningful connection when all that is expected is loss and pain. For those who can relate, even a little, this game touches something deep in the player that hits close to home.
Ultimately, Before the Storm Episode One exceeded expectations. Deck Nine delivered a game that beautifully conveyed how complicated, difficult, messy, and strange life can be. It is apparent that it was lovingly made, and the care that went in wasn’t wasted. The prequels exploration of the self, and of our relationships with others was perfectly executed and left the player wanting for more. The emotional highs and lows of the final moments spanned the range of heartbreak and elation. If ever a developer had created a game that really touched on what it is to be human in a raw and natural way, it is Deck Nine.
What are some first impressions of the Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode One that might have been missed? Join in on the conversation in the comment section below! Don’t forget to follow DFTG on Twitter for live gaming and entertainment news 24/7!
Charles Douglas578 Posts
Deep in the mountains of the south west lives a man who writes game editorials, makes YouTube Videos, and is an overall mega nerd. An avid believer in Unicorns, and your new all star line backer, Number 34, CHARLES DOUGLAAAAAAASSSS!!!!